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When the World Changed Forever

(Not on 9/11)

by Barnabas
June 19, 2002

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When the World Changed Forever_Barnabas-(Not on 9/11) BEIJING, June 13 -- Chinese police pushed
and punched six South Korean diplomats in front of the South Korean Consulate today and dragged away a North Korean asylum-seeker whose 13-year-old son made it to safety inside, witnesses said.


No, it wasn’t June 13, 2002, but then it wasn’t September 11, 2001, either. The World Trade Center disaster was horrible in its scale, but it wasn’t new in conception; we had already had a dress rehearsal at that very site, when an attempt was made to take the towers down from below instead of from above. It wasn’t even December 7, 1941; sneak attacks are as old as the book of Genesis, when Abraham rescued his nephew Lot and the kings of the plain from their kidnappers.

For me the world changed forever in 1979 when the U.S. embassy in Teheran was captured and held for over a year, and the world community did not immediately do whatever it took to enforce compliance with international law. The world declared by its inaction that the international community was no longer a soccer field but a hockey rink, where thuggery is part of the game.

Diplomacy is cold war. It always has been. The implicit threat of "What we can/will do to you if you do not come to terms with us" hangs over every negotiating table, and no one knows how many acts of espionage are spawned behind the diplomatic cover of embassies and consulates: "but not here, not now" is the explicit promise of all negotiation. Whenever the sovereignty of an embassy is breached, millennia of civilization disappear as though they had never been.

It doesn’t take a gift of prophecy to say that a third world war is as likely to result from an episode such as the one reported from Beijing this week, in which the Chinese police violated the integrity of the South Korean embassy, as from escalating terrorism.

Treasure Island is a pretty clear story of good guys and bad guys — the pirates against the captain and those loyal to him — but there is a key point at which the line is blurred. Long John Silver, the quintessential bad guy, approaches under a flag of truce. He has but one leg; but the captain insists he sit on the ground for the parley. “You’ll have to give me a hand up, then,” the pirate says, setting a counter-condition in turn. When the parley is over, having gotten nowhere because the captain will accept no less than the surrender of the mutineer and pirates, Silver asks for the hand up; but nobody moves to help him. Even a young teenager, as I was when I saw Disney’s version of the story, could see that the good guys were not living up to terms they had implicitly agreed to. Silver, with excruciating effort, pulls himself upright with the use of his crutch; then he cries out with fury, “Them as die will be the lucky ones!”

We live in a post-1979 world, where Long John Silver’s angry prophecy could apply to us all.

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FANTANA from Chicago, IL writes:
June 19, 2002
Barnabas may not have realized how accurate of an analogy he used in saying that the world was no longer a soccer field but a hockey rink, where thuggery is part of the game.

First of all, thuggery is not part of hockey, not really. It's just a common misconception of those who do not follow the game. Yes, hockey has goons, people who are on the ice for the sole purpose of fighting, though fighting has been cracked down on over the last few decades.

Soccer also has its fill of thuggery, and anyone who says differently has not been watching the World Cup. In the few games I have seen, at least one player ends with a gash in his head as a result of an elbow blow by an opposing player. Unintentional? Perhaps, but the game is still brutal.

So why do I think Barnabas's analogy still works? Perhaps thuggery between nations always existed, even in and around the sacred embassies. It is only now - in a post-1979 world - that we are overtly aware what's subtlely been going on for decades.

Barnabas writes:
June 20, 2002
Thanks to Fantana for confirming that Curmudgeonry has A Reader.

As to the point raised, I watch neither soccer nor hockey as a rule, content with my prejudices about both.

But Fantana confirms the point: the one unbreakable rule of cheating is the pretense of keeping the rules. Hockey doesn't even bother to pretend, except perhaps sometimes when amateurs are playing under Old Men's Rules.

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